Nationals

S Zimmerman has No. 4 Kansas St defense dialed in

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S Zimmerman has No. 4 Kansas St defense dialed in

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) Ty Zimmerman knows when to turn it up.

When practice is getting monotonous or his teammates on No. 4 Kansas State need a big stop on third down, the junior safety and team captain mimics the motion of twisting a dial.

``One day in practice, I saw some guys over there cranking it up,'' linebacker Arthur Brown said. ``They call it turning the tempo up. We just all seemed to gather together and rally around it. It's definitely been his leadership that has helped us propel as a defense.''

Though the gesture started with Zimmerman and fellow defensive back Allen Chapman, everyone on defense knows what it means now.

``It's just emphasizing we need to tune in, dial in and regain our focus,'' Brown said.

With four interceptions in the last four games, Zimmerman exemplifies the progress of a Kansas State secondary that was a perceived weakness after allowing 263.4 yards passing per game last season.

Kansas State hasn't allowed more than 21 points to any of its seven opponents this season, and that includes West Virginia. The Wildcats picked off Heisman Trophy candidate Geno Smith twice and limited him to 143 yards passing, his only touchdown toss coming when the Wildcats were well on their way to a 55-14 victory last Saturday.

Brown had one interception, Zimmerman the other.

``You look at that from most points of view, and that looks like it's going to be a big play for West Virginia, and all of a sudden here comes Ty,'' wide receiver Curry Sexton said. ``He just had himself into a good situation and kind of baited Geno into that throw, which is kind of what Ty does. He just puts himself in good situations.

``On top of that, Ty is a very athletic person. He has so many capabilities,'' Sexton said. ``He just has a presence on the field, more so than everything.''

That presence comes from being the son of a high school coach.

Zimmerman's father, Randall, is the head coach at nearby Junction City, and that means the young playmaker grew up with a front-row seat for the Wildcats.

``He wasn't recruited real highly,'' Randall Zimmerman said. ``He had a couple other options, but then when K-State came forward, offered him a gray shirt, he jumped on that right away. There was no question where he was going to go and what he was going to do.''

What Zimmerman would do - like so many other high school quarterbacks - was switch positions, and then excel at his new spot on the field.

``He has a tremendous capacity to be able to have a global understanding of both defenses and offenses,'' Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. ``Coming from the offensive side of the ball to defense, you have a better understanding, particularly at that position, of what offenses do and what they are trying to do and how they go about doing it.''

Zimmerman already has nine interceptions in his career, putting him on pace to match the school record of 15 set by Jaime Mendez, a consensus All-American, from 1990-93. Snyder said he sees similarities between Zimmerman and Mendez, the former safety who played two decades ago and is now enshrined in Kansas State's Ring of Honor.

``Both of them are instinctive players,'' Snyder said. ``Jaime had a great feel for the game. I think Ty has a very positive feel for the game as well. Not just from their position standpoint, but a collective vision of both offense and defense. Both of them were good leaders in terms of being able to give guidance and direction to their teammates on the field, and both of them are young guys that worked hard and did everything right.''

Snyder and players are keeping the improvement of the secondary in perspective. West Virginia's passing offense was ranked second in the league last week. Now, Texas Tech has taken over that spot, and the Red Raiders come to Manhattan this Saturday.

``It gives us a lot of confidence, but we can't get too high on that,'' said Jarard Milo, who starts next to Zimmerman in the Kansas State defensive backfield. ``Obviously, we have a great team in Texas Tech coming in this week, who does the same things West Virginia can do, and so for us to be able to contain them, that's what we're looking into.''

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Nationals rally, but find themselves treading water again

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Nationals rally, but find themselves treading water again

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Nationals lost to the Chicago Cubs, 6-5, Sunday to drop their record to 19-27. Here are five observations from the game…

1. A word about Anthony Rendon first.

His three-run homer dragged the Nationals to within 6-4 on Sunday night. He also walked and a soft liner off his bat was caught by a leaping Addison Russell at shortstop. He was stellar in the field. After an initial rusty patch when returning from the injured list, he is back to his normal self and one of the most dangerous hitters in the National League. He could finally be going to his first All-Star Game.

Second, a word about Howie Kendrick.

He homered -- again -- his seventh already this season. Things around the Nationals’ poor start are not great. They would be severely amplified if Kendrick wasn’t walking around with a .317 batting average and an almost 1.000 OPS.

Their work was not enough Sunday. The Cubs took a 4-0 lead early, then hung on late, spoiling the Nationals chance for a rare second consecutive series win.

2. “Little things” kicked in again Sunday.

A fourth-inning passed ball by Kurt Suzuki moved a runner to third with one out. Kyle Schwarber’s sacrifice fly drove him in.

Juan Soto’s late break from second with two outs in the sixth inning led to third base coach Bob Henley giving a rare stop sign at third base. Albert Almora Jr.’s throw for center field went soaring over bot the catcher and pitcher at home plate. If Soto broke early or Henley took his usual chance, another run would have scored.

The Nationals’ overall defense was cleaner Sunday. Rendon made multiple quality defensive plays, Brian Dozier also two slick stops. But, two smaller incidents flipped two runs in what became a 6-4 game.

3. Jeremy Hellickson is going in reverse.

He lasted just three innings Sunday, and was lucky to make it there. Hellickson opened the game by loading the bases via walks. Despite him laying the groundwork for a devastating first inning, he allowed just a run.

Runners made it to second and third to start the second inning, but just one scored. A leadoff homer for Anthony Rizzo bumped the Cubs’ lead to 3-0 in the third. Hellickson wiggled away from a double in the inning to finish his evening in arrears, 3-0.

He threw 64 pitches, just 30 strikes.

The outing was the second time this season Hellickson lasted just three innings in a start. He gave up five earned runs the last time. Four of his previous five outings delivered a Game Score of 34 or lower (50 is the starting point with potential to go up -- or down). A non-analytical measure of those outings is to simply call them uncompetitive.

The trouble for Washington is it has no clear option to replace Hellickson and his 6.23 ERA in the rotation, if it decided that was the best course of action going forward. Joe Ross could swap spots wit Hellickson, flipping Ross into the rotation and Hellickson into the bullpen. Kyle McGowin, called up from Triple-A Fresno on Friday, relieved Hellickson on Sunday. He’s not big-league ready.

Austin Voth is the only minor-league starter on the 40-man roster but not on the 25-man roster. Voth has a 3.89 ERA in Fresno this season.

4. Trevor Rosenthal continues to creep toward a return.

He threw a bullpen session in Nationals Park on Sunday after a day off Saturday. Rosenthal pitched in back-to-back games Thursday and Friday for the Double-A Harrisburg Senators.

Rosenthal is going to Harrisburg to throw another inning Monday, then be re-evaluated. He had another rough outing Friday for the Senators: ⅓ of an inning, 21 pitches, 11 strikes, a walk and hit allowed.

Nationals manager Davey Martinez said the misses were up and down in the zone. Rosenthal was previously pulling pitches to his left.

“I watched video,” Martinez said. “His mechanics are pretty good right now.”

Is he close to returning?

“I think he’s really close,” Martinez said. “We’ll see how this next outing goes for him.”

5. More progress for the injured.

Matt Adams (left shoulder strain) took 40 swings Sunday, felt good afterward, and is nearing a pre-game stint on the field, possibly Monday with the team in New York.

Ryan Zimmerman (plantar fasciitis) continues to swing and play defense. He was expected to run Sunday, the final step in his rehabilitation. He could be ready “very soon” according to Martinez.

Tony Sipp (oblique) took Sunday off after pitching an inning Saturday for Single-A Potomac.

Outfielder Andrew Stevenson (back spasms) was sent back to Triple-A Fresno on Sunday. He will begin playing games with the Grizzlies on Monday.

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Cubs drop protest, but not stance about Sean Doolittle's delivery

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Cubs drop protest, but not stance about Sean Doolittle's delivery

WASHINGTON -- Sunday afternoon’s discussions still revolved around Saturday night’s close, which Washington manager Davey Martinez referred to as a “fiasco” on Sunday.

Chicago manager Joe Maddon started a chaotic situation when he popped out of the dugout following Sean Doolittle’s first pitch in the ninth inning Saturday. Maddon contended Doolittle’s “toe-tap” was an illegal delivery, akin to when Chicago reliever Carl Edwards Jr. tried to add a pause in spring training, but was told the move was illegal.

The umpires told him, and Doolittle, the delivery was legal. Chicago filed a protest with the league. After consulting with Major League Baseball and MLB’s Chief Baseball Officer, Joe Torre, the Cubs dropped their protest Sunday morning.

A point of differentiation is whether the pitcher is taking a second step. Umpires previously determined Edwards was taking a second step. They determined Doolittle was not. This is a judgment call for the umpires and is not reviewable.

Official Baseball Rule 5.07(a) states in part: “The pitcher may not take a second step toward home plate with either foot or otherwise reset his pivot foot in his delivery of the pitch. If there is a runner, or runners, on base it is a balk under Rule 6.02(a); if the bases are unoccupied it is an illegal pitch under Rule 6.02(b).”

The league, according to Maddon, said there is a difference between Edwards placing his full foot on the ground and Doolittle grazing the mound with a cleat when he delivered. Maddon continued to not agree with the interpretation.

“We went through the whole process,” Maddon said. “Our guys in the office spoke to MLB and I talked to Mr. Torre. The whole thing I wanted to really get done was protect Carl. I really didn’t anticipate a whole lot to be done with it. Even though I still don’t agree with the conclusion, because I think it’s exactly what Carl did, only a different version of it. But the point was, I would not be a good parent if I had not spoken up for my guy. And that’s what I was doing last night and, again, it’s just to eliminate any gray area there just for future because it’s going to happen again down the road somewhere and you’re just trying to delineate what is right and what is wrong. In my mind, it wasn’t a judgment call, I thought it was black-and-white. It wasn’t gray.”

Maddon said multiple times that Doolittle tapped with his toe in addition to grazing the mound, both of which, he contended, were not legal or different than Edwards' attempt at deception.

The congenial Doolittle was steamed postgame Saturday and remained irritated Sunday. Saturday, he took multiple shots at Maddon during his postgame commentary. He also taunted the idea when throwing warmup pitches while Maddon argued with umpires by making exaggerated kicks with his leg and multiple stops with his foot. Doolittle switched to a delivery without any stops -- one he often uses -- after the protest as a way to show Maddon he didn’t need the tweak to be successful.

“In that moment, he's not trying to do anything other than rattle me and it was kind of tired,” Doolittle said Saturday. “I don't know. Sometimes he has to remind people how smart he is and how much he pays attention to the game and stuff like that. He put his stamp on it for sure.

"I actually have to thank him. After they came out the second, the [Kyle] Schwarber at-bat, I threw two fastballs and a slider and a fastball to [Kris] Bryant and those were probably the best ones I've thrown in a while. I don't do the tap when there's somebody on base so I can keep my pickoff move available if I need it. I've had a lot of traffic recently, so I've had practice doing it, so it wasn't like a huge adjustment to me. I don't know. In a way, I kind of need to thank him."

Asked Sunday if Doolittle’s comments were relayed to him, Maddon smiled and said yes.

“Listen, I have no issue with that whatsoever,” Maddon said. “We’re all emotional. I’ve said a lot of things I didn’t want to say years ago -- even in this ballpark. I think if he understood the entire context, he might have had a different opinion. Even if he was the manager himself -- if he was me -- or if he was being protected by his manager under similar circumstances, I think his stance may be different.”

No one -- the league, Maddon or Doolittle -- changed their perspective a day later.

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